The Oldest Tale

30th January 2004 at 00:00
Extract from Felicity Yeoh's entry, inspired by The Wife of Bath's Tale

Night. It's late now. So late that even with the windows open it's almost silent, as though there is no one else in the world. It's beginning to grow colder, but I don't want to close the window just yet and I don't want to sleep. For just one moment I want to stay here, gazing out of the window as if I'm waiting for something, though even if I tried I couldn't tell you what. There are no clouds, and the sky seems like a different dimension, separated from the earth by something more tangible than distance, something the moonlight passes through like glass. Unusual, the clarity everything seems to have tonight. Objects have lost their colours and this alien light gives them only cold haloes and long shadows. By my head my phone suddenly stirs and begins to vibrate in long pulses like an unexpected heartbeat. A message. "Are you awake, Rachel? Sam."

It was another night recently, a night so dark it seemed completely empty, when I lay in bed looking for the moon and talking on the phone to my friend Sam. It was late then, as well. We were speaking in almost-whispers so our parents would not be able to hear, and although my eyes were fixed on the sky it needed concentration to follow his words and my own. We talked like this for a long time, but out of choice rather than necessity; we had nothing particular to tell.

"Which of the seven deadly sins is your greatest character flaw?" It was a question I asked him on impulse, prompted less by desire for an answer than the desire for a reaction. After knowing someone for long enough, back from before hormones and puberty and complications, you know in some ways everything about them, although in other ways nothing at all. That's how I felt about Sam. We had known each other for longer than anyone else in the social circle which had been drawn around us. The nature of our relationship was that he would be able to reply "sloth" or "gluttony" for instance, without self-consciousness or fear of what impression his words would make. Equally, he could not say "lust", not to me.

Felicity Yeoh is in the sixth form at Sutton high school for girls, London borough of Sutton. The Oldest Tale will be broadcast next Wednesday

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